The masterplan for York Central is taking shape. But there's still time to have your say, with workshops this week and drop-ins later in the month. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

CAR-free streets with courtyards where children can play; allotments and picnic areas; communal rooftop gardens; an amphitheatre and a village green.

These are just some of the ideas being considered for the huge York Central site behind York Railway Station, it has emerged.

Last week The Press exclusively revealed outline details of the latest masterplan for the huge, 110-acre area of former railway land.

That masterplan sets out in principle where more than 2,000 new homes and almost 90,000 square metres of commercial and office space could be built.

The plan revealed last week also included proposals for:

  • A new public square - bigger than Millennium Square in Leeds - between the station and the National Railway Museum
  • A ‘great park’ bigger than Museum Gardens, which would run through the site
  • Some traffic-free streets where children could play in safety
  • Traffic-free cycle and pedestrian paths through the site
  • A new multi-storey car park behind the station
  • New hotels, restaurants and pubs

York Press: Artist's impression of how the 'Great Park' might look

Under the proposals, most of the commercial space would be in a single 'commercial hub' up to six storeys high near the railway station.

The housing would be split between flats, mainly near Holgate Road, and terraced housing near Leeman Road.

The masterplan is the result of months of work by Allies and Morrison, the London-based firm of architects and urban planners appointed by the York Central Partnership, and by consultants Arup.

But the York Central Partnership - which represents Network Rail, Homes England, City of York Council and the National Railway Museum, the biggest landowners at York Central - stressed the original plans were still being revised following a major six-week 'Festival of York Central' consultation at the National Railway Museum in March and April. During the consultation thousands of suggestions were made by local people and organisations.

York Press:

A model of the proposed York Central development on display during the recent consultation

The Partnership says that key ideas to emerge from the consultation now being considering include:

  • Landscape: Creating a number of different areas such as a reed garden, a stream garden, a park, a village green and an amphiteatre within the great park.
  • Streets: Ending the dominance of the car. Under ideas being looked at, many streets would still be accessible by car, but there would also be 'quiet' streets (presumably car-free or at least parking-free), semi-public courtyards, quiet areas, picnic spaces, allotments and teentrails or skateparks. Designers are also looking at how to manage traffic speeds.
  • Movement through the site: Planners are 'developing the design of the main road through the scheme and how it integrates with the park and York Yard South,' the York Central Partnership says. Different designs are also being looked at for the main bridge into the site from Water End.
  • Character: The masterplan hopes to create different 'quarters' within York Central - such as a 'Foundry village', a 'station quarter' and a 'museum quarter' - each with their own character. It would achieve this by using different layouts, building types, a mixture of pitched and green roofs, communal rooftops, and different materials and heights for each neighbourhood.
  • Integrating work and living spaces: The York Central Partnership says it is looking at ways of mixing up residential areas, public spaces and work spaces, so that these would be more integrated.

York Central Partnership spokeswoman Tamsin Hart-Jones said the response to the consultation had been 'inspiring'. "It’s clear that there is a significant appetite for York Central to be a ground-breaking scheme for the city, but also to be held up as an example nationally of high-quality design," she said.

“This is about creating places for people and making vibrant neighbourhoods. The ideas and feedback we received have really helped us to move the plans on and we are looking forward to sharing them and continuing the conversation around the emerging designs with York residents over the coming weeks.”

York Press:

York Central Partnership spokeswoman Tamsin Hart-Jones

An outline planning application for York Central is due to be submitted on August 8.

But there is still time for you to find out more about the plans and to have your say before then.

From 6pm-8.30pm this evening (July 18) there will be a workshop at the NRM focussing on movement and transport at York Central - how to get the balance between cars, bikes, pedestrians, public transport and 'quiet streets' right.

From 6pm-8pm tomorrow (July 19) there will be a second workshop at the NRM, this time focussing on design, landscape and housing.

There will also be three drop-in exhibitions later this month, where you'll have a chance to look at the proposals and put questions to members of the York Central Partnership planning team.

These will be on:

  • July 25, 3pm-6pm, at the NRM
  • July 26, 10am-4pm, at West Offices
  • July 28, 10.30am-12 noon, at the NRM.


The six-week 'Festival of York Central' consultation which has fed into the masterplan was held at the National Railway Museum in March and April.

It featured an ongoing exhibition, plus four weeks of themed workshops, walks, discussions, drop-ins, coffee mornings and school-based events organised by architect Phil Bixby and academic Helen Graham of My York Central - the pair who also ran the Castle Gateway consultation last year.

In all, during the My York Central consultation, Phil, Helen and their team laid on more than 45 events and spoke to hundreds of people.

Just as with the Castle Gateway consultation, they asked those attending events to write down their thoughts afterwards on post-it notes. "And we received about 3,500 post-its," Phil says.

York Press:

Helen Graham and Phil Bixby of My York Central

They scanned all the post-its, put them online on the My York Central flickr site, then collated the feedback, distilling the information into eight 'big ideas' which they say set out the building blocks for a 'truly ground-breaking new part of York – unique in the UK'.

These 'big ideas' were:

  • Homes should be for living in, not for investment. The new homes at York Central should make up a mixed community - and above all, should be places where local people live, not be sold as holiday lets
  • Some of the homes should be high density. This needn't be a negative concept, the My York Central team say. "High density should bring walkable access to shops, gyms, culture, entertainment, public transport and incredible roof top views." Good quality design of smaller flats in York Central with access to great facilities might even encourage people elsewhere in the city to downsize, freeing up larger homes for families.
  • Homes and work places should be sustainable and inexpensive to run. "(We should) link low fuel bills and environmental sustainability through high building standards."
  • York Central should be about people, not cars. "Whether people love and rely on their cars or want to see a car-free York, there is one shared point of agreement: that York Central cannot add 2500-plus more cars to York’s roads," the My York Central team say. "York Central should provide liveable streets and safe neighbourhoods for children to grow up, keep cars to the periphery, plan for quick and reliable public transport and prioritise direct routes for those on foot, bikes and with mobility aids."
  • We should try to remove the barriers between work and life. "Work is changing. Work and life are often no longer zoned into 9am-5pm so why should our cities be? Plan for creative vibrant urban space by mixing up work, living and cultural buildings and spaces," the My York Central team suggest.
  • Use York Central to build links between people - including those already living near the development - by means of a 'social contract' to spread the benefits of investment in the area. "York has enormous wealth, socially, culturally and financially," the My York Central team say. "York Central should build upon York's tradition of pioneering development (with New Earswick, radical 1940s housing and Derwenthorpe). Use York Central to build a community that can build links between people to address inequalities. There should be careful consideration of the process of development in relation to neighbouring communities and implementation of a 'social contract' which allows existing communities to benefit from, and contribute to, York central itself."
  • Make a 'learning hub' or hubs a centrepiece of the development. "Amazing things are happening in York from media, science and technology to heritage," the My York Central team conclude. "Develop a learning hub that challenges perceptions and fuels new ideas and networks."
  • Public spaces that enable people to be creative together. "Design indoor and outdoor public space and forms of collaborative governance that enable communities to take ownership and to cultivate lots of different activities," the My York Central team say.

So how well do the my York Central team feel the masterplanners have responded to the 'big ideas'?

It is early days yet, says Phil Bixby.

The outline planning application being submitted on August 8 will set out only broad parameters for the development of the site. Work is continuing, Phil says. "Big ideas such as ‘homes for living, not investment’ are ideas where we are drawing in expertise and, through events over the next month, we are seeking to build the networks that will bring these ideas to life on York Central."

So it's all still to play for.


York Press:

Some comments from the My York Central consultation...

"Need to ensure all communities here have access by foot to each-other."

"Community venues are key/ creative and performance spaces."

"Don't segregate people. Create mixed tenure environments."

"Link/ connection to existing Leeman Road community - avoid 'us and them'."

"Progress needs to happen but at what cost? The development must not leave current communities behind and (must) address current challenges like traffic + lack of affordable homes."

"Park is a good idea. Important to maintain green space - makes for better living."

"Movement - cycle and walk, using the Wilton Rise bridge a lot..."

"Affordable housing needs to be affordable for York residents - not buy to let/ investment properties."

"20 per cent affordable homes is nowhere near enough."

"What are the rent prices? Keep it REAL."

"More homes the better - but make them affordable!"

To see details of the My York Central consultation for yourself, visit